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Featured in Professional Electrician & Installer Magazine

Dr Zzeus - September 2022


I’ve been instructed by my client that he only wants his fire alarm and detection system serviced once per year. He has a small hotel with 14 rooms but claims that because he is only open from March to November and then for two weeks at Christmas, he doesn’t need it serviced twice per year and that BS 5839 is only a recommendation. Is this correct?

The simple answer is that it will not comply with BS 5839-1.

The longer answer is that the client can take any risks he wants to with life safety and that is his prerogative, just like anyone deciding to drive their car above the speed limit. However, both would be the wrong thing to do.

Clause 45.3 of the British Standard states that for a part one system, the period between successive servicing and inspection visits shouldn’t exceed six months. This means that six months after the service visit the system is deemed to be non-compliant with the standard. This will more than likely affect his insurance and possible local authority regulations, especially if the hotel has a bar.

He is correct in that BS 5839 is a code of practice, however, BS 5839 becomes intertwined with quite a few pieces of legislation and regulations that affect anyone deciding to not have their fire alarm maintained in a suitable system of maintenance.

The first legislation to consider is the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order. Firstly a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment must have been carried out, which would detail the fire alarm requirements as set out in article 13 Fire-fighting and fire detection:

13.— (1) Where necessary (whether due to the features of the premises, the activity carried out there, any hazard present or any other relevant circumstances) in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons, the responsible person must ensure that — (a) the premises are, to the extent that it is appropriate, equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment and with fire detectors and alarms.

This statement requires the person who has a legal requirement to be competent in doing a fire risk assessment and ensure the fire alarm system is suitable and installed to the manufacturer’s requirements.

Failure to do either is a criminal offence, assuming there is a risk assessment in place that would state the BS 5839 system be installed.

The second clause in the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order is Article 17 Maintenance:

17.— (1) Where necessary in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons the responsible person must ensure that the premises and any facilities, equipment and devices provided in respect of the premises under this Order or, subject to paragraph (6), under any other enactment, including any enactment repealed or revoked by this Order, are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.

This is where your client will be in breach of the regulations, which state that the equipment and the responsible person must ensure that it is subject to a suitable system of maintenance. The persons who specify a suitable system of maintenance are usually the manufacturer and unless the manufacturers have some sort of strange clause in their instructions, they all specify the use of BS 5839 for maintenance.

Finally, Article 50 of this legislation states that:

50.— (1) The Secretary of State must ensure that such guidance, as he considers appropriate, is available to assist responsible persons in the discharge of the duties imposed by articles 8 to 22 and by regulations made under article 24.

The government issued numerous books on the Regulatory reform fire safety order; these are free to download via the links at the end of this article.

There are books for every type of premises covered in the legislation, including accommodation. These books clearly state that the fire alarm used should be BS 5839 and that fire alarm systems should have six monthly servicing intervals. Furthermore, preventive maintenance should be carried out by a competent person with specialist knowledge of fire-warning and automatic detection systems.

About the author

Tom Brookes

Tom has a PhD with his dissertation, Creation of pathways for the professional recognition of fire alarm engineers in the UK, gaining maximum credits; he has recently become the first Chartered Engineer in the UK based solely on fire alarm knowledge and skills and is keen to help other fire alarm engineers gain professional recognition.

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